Israel to ship 700K Pfizer doses to South Korea in swap deal

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel is sending 700,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to South Korea in exchange for a future shipment of vaccines from South Korea to Israel.

Under the deal, Israel will transfer the Pfizer vaccines to South Korea in an effort to inoculate more of the Asian nation’s citizens this month. South Korea will send the same number of doses to Israel as early as September, the officials added.

“This is a win-win deal,” Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in his statement. The agreement will “reduce the holes” in the vaccine’s availability.

Jung Eun-kyeong, South Korea’s top infectious disease expert, confirmed the deal. She said the Seoul government will continue to pursue swap deals with other countries.

“We are expecting to have a sufficient number of vaccines during the fourth quarter while we proceed with our vaccination campaign,” said Jung, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Both countries are reporting a surge in new infections, with South Korea topping 700 new cases of COVID-19 for the fourth straight day on Tuesday. Israel was seeing the most new infections in three months, with the delta variant driving the trend, the government says. Both governments are considering ways to curb the virus’ spread.

South Korea has so far administered first doses to just 30% of its population. Israel has fully vaccinated nearly 5.3 million people of its population of 9.3 million.

Bennett said the agreement, which he personally negotiated with Pfizer CEO Albert Burla, is the first of its kind between Israel and another country. The Israeli vaccines still need to be tested after their arrival in South Korea, he added.

The deal comes a few weeks after the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy over areas of the occupied West Bank, called off a deal to receive 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Israel. The Palestinians contended that the vaccines were too close to expiring and didn’t meet their standards.

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Associated Press writer Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

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